An employee of the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose, California, has been reassigned after sending away a murder suspect who was trying to turn himself in, according to the sheriff.
Hugo Castro, 28, tried to surrender at the jail Monday in connection with the death of his ex-girlfriend. The sheriff's department said Castro told a civilian employee at the jail he knew the location of a dead body and wanted to turn himself in. That worker told a custody deputy, who then asked Castro to leave and turn himself in at the San Jose Police Department instead.
SJPD officers later arrested Castro in connection to the homicide of his ex-girlfriend, identified by police as 27-year-old Alessandra Barlas of San Jose. Police said they found Barlas’ body exactly where Castro said it would be: inside a downtown San Jose apartment. Castro was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of murder. It's not clear if he has an attorney.
The sheriff's office said the custody deputy who sent Castro away is under internal investigation.
Sheriff Responds to Murder Suspect Sent Away From Jail While Trying to Turn Himself In
"If the initial findings are true, then the custody deputy failed to meet the expectations of the department," Sheriff Laurie Smith said in a statement.
Smith also said, however, "at no time did Mr. Castro say he was responsible for the dead body or had any involvement in the crime."
The head of a blue-ribbon commission looking into Santa Clara County's jails said deputy training will be at the heart of its investigation.
NBC Bay Area on Thursday spoke to LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and former police auditor now leading the commission.
"I heard about it and I ended up scratching my head," Cordell said. "Is this for real? Did this really happen? Did someone in law enforcement really do this? It's startling."
Cordell said the first thing the deputy should have done "is call someone, sit them down, get them in an interview room and find the location of the body. Maybe that person could be saved."
San Jose Murder Suspect Sent Away From Jail While Trying to Turn Himself In, Sheriff Says
The latest incident adds to concerns over training after three county deputies were accused of beating inmate Michael Tyree to death at the Main Jail.
"This is yet something the commission will be looking at," Cordell said.
Meanwhile, some have even asked if its time to take control of the jail away from the sheriff and give it back to an independent department of correction. Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese addressed that possibility earlier in the week.
"It's possible," Cortese said. "We'll have to take that up. It's a great question."
Taking the jail away from the sheriff would require voter approval.
Anyone with information on Monday's homicide is asked to contact Detective Sgt. Rick Yu or Detective Wayne Smith of SJPD's homicide unit at 408-277-5283.